Swami had titled his latest post as Lies, but that triggered one of the most truthful weekends on os.me! On that post, as indicated by Swami, I had written a less than 100-words comment. Still, I had many thoughts bubbling in me about the subject. Hence, I decided to write this post, stealing the title from Baapu (Mahatma Gandhi). Currently, the focus is on truth and not on copyright laws, I suppose!
A childhood incident changed my life forever. I had just gotten enrolled in 4th grade at a new school in Bangalore (Bengaluru). As I was gearing up for my fresh beginning, Nature started playing its games with me.
“We just found out about something,” my mother said with a frown.
I was intrigued, “What?”
“You’ll have to study Kannada at a fairly high level.”
“But, Hindi is my second language! I know nothing of Kannada, except for a few pleasantries,” I said, almost in tears.
“Yes. We’ll have to resolve this.”
“Maybe they have Sanskrit or something? That’d be closer to Hindi.”
“Kannada is the only option.”
My father’s job required us to move every couple of years. Each time that happened, my life was in a mess. That was the second or third time I was in such a situation.
The new school refused to offer any extra help with Kannada. So, my parents desperately tried to get my sister and me into a different school. All admissions had closed by then. Somehow, my sister managed to get into another school, but the lucky me didn’t!
The first Kannada class freaked me out. They gave me an enormous textbook that appeared like Greek and Latin. Or, maybe I should just say, it looked like Kannada. I sat through it, not understanding a thing.
Nature always does everything with a purpose, though. That worldly torture got me closer to the Divine. A Shirdi Sai Baba temple stood right next to my school. It had a meditation hall that hardly anyone used. On most days after school, I spent around 15 mins in that hall. Throughout the time, I fought mentally with the Divine for putting me through trauma. After that venting out, I would return home calmer and much less sad.
Little did I know that Nature takes its course no matter what. It sent in my death sentence in the form of a yellow-colored monster called the Report Card. Due to my fear of Kannada, the scores in all the subjects looked pathetic. Being in the top-3 of my class was my norm, but that had just shattered. I was ranked 8th in class (I despise the ranking system of grades!).
At that time, I didn’t have the insight for something important. Despite my struggles, I hadn’t failed in Kannada. I had worked very hard and secured decent scores. Nevertheless, the immediate thought I had was – my mother wouldn’t be happy. So, I decided to hide my report card inside my backpack. This bird brain didn’t realize that my mother already had the report card schedule with her!
Each day, my mother would ask, “Did you get your report card?”
And, I would religiously say, “No!”
That went on for a week. One day, when I said my customary No, my mother revealed my report card to me. She had dug into my backpack to get it out. Caught red-handed!
What happened after that is anyone’s guess. Frankly, I don’t remember anything because my mind had already shut down. The embarrassment I felt after getting caught was my most significant punishment. To the point where, after that day, I started abiding by the truth.
Now, a new problem had started. I had discovered a weapon to push the world off my back. Brutality! As Swami had once said, it almost felt like I enjoyed being brutal as against being truthful. Then, I had another turning point.
One day, at the Ashram, I confronted my beloved Swami about something. I felt that he had teased me out of my wits a couple of days earlier.
“How could YOU say that, Swamiji?” I inquired angrily.
My brutally truthful self had surfaced, but he didn’t let it go. Instead, Swami fought back. He had an angerless stern face. In fact, if I observed him right, he was laughing internally. Perhaps, I had walked into a trap he had laid to teach me something!
“When did I say that?” he replied.
I understood Swami’s response as a denial of my charge. I was enraged that he had spoken a lie. Later, I realized that he had merely asked me to repeat the instance. He had outwitted my brutality with his play of words! As they say, diamond cuts diamond. One shame made me brutally truthful. Another embarrassment, in front of Swami, removed the brutality.
After that, I made a mental note to speak the truth politely. And no, my journey with truth didn’t end there! I found out that politeness and truthfulness didn’t always go together. So, for a brief period, I caught myself speaking white lies. That made me restless, and then I stopped it immediately.
I had to speak the truth and be polite at all times. Yet, there were weird situations where lying felt more compassionate. It would save a life or bring about meaningful change in someone. I was stuck!
When I thought about what to do, I remembered the instance from the Mahabharata. Sri Krishna had pressed Yudhishthira to speak a half-lie for the sake of social welfare. Though, the same epic clearly states something important at the end. Even though Yudhishthira had lied out of compassion, he still got negative results for it. Nevertheless, that was Krishna’s teaching of selfless sacrifice.
Finally, that’s where my experiments with truth concluded. For the most part of my life, it will be the truth as I see it. It’ll mostly be spoken politely. Of course, that doesn’t mean I will share everything with everyone. No, those aren’t secrets hidden as cheating. It’s just things that aren’t of much value to anyone that I wish to keep private.
Conclusively, if there’s a conflict between truth and compassion, I will pick the latter. I know that those lies will have adverse effects on me, but compassion brings more peace to my heart than absolute truth. Right or wrong, that is my truth!